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Old 29th May 2013, 13:53   #1 (permalink)
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UK Mil Control Tower designs

Looking at pics over the years and being at different bases and airshows, have wondered why our control towers are at the height they are!! I'm not going to the extremeties of comparing say a tower at Waddo to say an international airport style and height oof one at Nellis or Edwards or Holloman AFB as figured the ATC guys and girls have to see above the mountains for take offs and approaches.

Whats the rationale (apart from the obvious Cold War protective and security train of thought) behind our control tower design at RAF, AAC and FAA bases? Would have thought at least figured a few bases with hills around would at least have higher towers?

WOuld it make life easier for the ATCO and SATCO to be sat inside a higher tower?

Cheers

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Old 29th May 2013, 15:41   #2 (permalink)
 
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Chopper

Most UK mil bases are from the pre-WWII 'expansion era' when airfields, and the stations that supported, them were built to a standard design. Hence when you go into most RAF stations, you will find the guardroom of a standard pattern, with SHQ (to a standard pattern) in front of you. Barrack blocks and messes (to a standard pattern will be nearby) with hangars (to a standard pattern) fronting on to the airfield.

Towers (to a standard pattern) did not need to be that tall as they were positioned at a suitable location to monitor flying patterns and taxiing areas. Remember that most airfields started as grass, with runways usually no longer than 6000ft. Only with the advent of the heavy bombers did airfields get concrete runways and extensions to the primary runway. With the advent of the V-bombers some runways were extended to 9000-ish feet, but the airfield could still be monitored from the standard pattern tower. The late 60s saw the addition of glazed VCRs and in the late 70s these were made bigger covering the whole of the tower footprint. In the 80s we started commisioning bespoke designs ie the "pizza hut" at Leeming or the more modern tower at Waddington.

If you want more info see if you can find any of the books in the "Action Stations" series (other historical airfield reference books are available) one of which details the expansion era building programme and the reasons for many of the designs.

Last edited by Roland Pulfrew; 29th May 2013 at 15:43.
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Old 29th May 2013, 15:54   #3 (permalink)
 
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Also see UK Control Tower & airfield photographs of WW2. A slightly alarming but ultimately rather satisfying site.
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Old 29th May 2013, 16:09   #4 (permalink)
 
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Like those standard US guard towers that shriek "H-Bomb store" to everyone
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Old 29th May 2013, 17:18   #5 (permalink)
 
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In the late 1970's I flew out to New Orleans on a LXX C130, via Cape Canaveral. Our skipper suffered from vertigo and couldn't climb the external stairs in Cape Canaveral to submit his flight plan for New Orleans because the tower was too high and the stairs were too open - so the Nav did it for him.

When we got to New Orleans there was a "tropical storm" going on, which made the approach a bit tricky. As it happened we had a 38 Gp trapper team on board and they joined with the Sqn crew and eventually we got down. It took quite a number of approaches but he made it, in spite of the weather.

When we checked into our hotel, our rooms were on the 3rd floor (IIRC) and the staircase to the rooms wound round an atrium which went up to heaven. Poor old skip had to face the wall as he climbed the staircase.

Severe vertigo but what an aviator!

And the control tower was usually too high for him.

Rgds SOS

Last edited by SOSL; 29th May 2013 at 17:20.
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Old 29th May 2013, 17:58   #6 (permalink)
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Cheers guys, thanks for the ControlTowers link TM, have to say Culdrose, Yeovilton and St Mawgan look good.

The 1973 photo of RAF Molesworth looks very interesting, forgot it had proper modern runway and hangar and tower before being demolished then the modern fixture to this day is the launch / guard tower for the old Tomahawks GLCM which looks like the modern towers at Edwards lol

@Sosl thought you meant your skipper walked up one of the launch pads or the VAB

Middle Wallops tower doesn't look like you can't see over the hangars whereas Ft Ruckers tower is quite tall and IIRC it's flat area and trees in that area.

Isn't Akrotiri taller than the ones here and some of the old RAFG and AAc bases in Germany differ?

The USAFE towers appear quite tall though Mildenhall and Lakenheath height wise probably no more than our ones? Ramstein looks tall and so does a Spang and a couple of Army airfields including the former Feucht AAF.

So the rule of thumb in the designs providing you have good view of all the airfield and can see a/c from a distance approach and take off?
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Old 29th May 2013, 19:16   #7 (permalink)
 
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story in the local paper was that when the "new" tower was opened at Yeovilton it was too low and couldn't see the runway properly due to obstructions

I don't know the truth but the story was widely believed at the time
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Old 29th May 2013, 19:40   #8 (permalink)
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In the 60s Waddo had three towers.

It had a very small WW2 (or pre) between 2 and 3 Hangars. This was very small and allocated to HMC. The next tower was forward of that one and housed the approach control. The third tower was built further forward again and housed the visual control.

Coningsby had a tower of the WW2 style shown above. When it was remodelled as approach and local the windows on the first floor were covered over to create the stygian gloom for the radar cabin. The visual control was built on top of that. In the late 90s it was discovered that the covered over windows of the approach control were crumbling never having been built to last 50 years. The new tower became an imperative. It has a virtually frameless visual control room.

The Wainfleet tower was built to a 70s design and its control room was on the 5th floor simply to afford good visibility out to 6 miles or more.
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Old 29th May 2013, 21:19   #9 (permalink)
 
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Here are Waddington's three "current" towers. The WW2 tower is in danger of falling down and entry is forbidden. I understand that the only reason that it hasn't been knocked down is the expense (and no, it can't be listed). Picture from the Airfield Information Exchange website.

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Old 30th May 2013, 06:38   #10 (permalink)
 
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Wensleydale

Just out of interest, why can't it be listed? Any building can be listed if the need is there; the main reasons being uniqueness, architectural value and forming a key part of our history. At the rate the RAF is going we will soon have no preserved examples of our (hundreds of) airfields and their buildings.

Rumour has it that the Officers' Mess at Fenton was only demolished to stop it from being listed
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Old 30th May 2013, 07:02   #11 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
Middle Wallops tower doesn't look like you can't see over the hangars ...
You can see all you need to see over the hangars. You can see quite a lot from the VCR, including almost all of the landing ground and approach-paths, but landing on the bit behind the hangars was frowned-upon.

Quote:
AAc bases in Germany ...
with the exception of Detmold's 1980s new-build were what we inherited from the previous occupants.
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Old 30th May 2013, 07:07   #12 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
The WW2 tower is in danger of falling down
Wyton ATC was/is of a similar design. SATCO wanted to change the office layout so arranged to have an internal wall knocked through. "No probs" said Works chappie "it'll take a morning, day tops". 10 days constant jackhammering later they got through!!!! What have they been doing at Waddo??!
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Old 30th May 2013, 07:45   #13 (permalink)
 
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Quote:

Just out of interest, why can't it be listed?
Ref Waddington's WW2 tower. All hearsay and rumour! My understanding is that there are too many of them in existence and it is not particularly old. The other problem with listing is that there is no money to preserve it! (and yes, I believe that there have been enquiries to English Heritage/lottery etc in the past).

It would be really nice to move it to a position near the Waddington Airfield Viewing Enclosure and use it as a café and photography platform (similar to Wickenby's excellent little watch office) - now that would be really expensive!

Quote:

Wyton ATC was/is of a similar design. SATCO wanted to change the office
layout so arranged to have an internal wall knocked through. "No probs" said
Works chappie "it'll take a morning, day tops". 10 days constant jackhammering
later they got through!!!! What have they been doing at Waddo??!
The Waddington tower has bushes growing out of the masonry! I have also heard the "asbestos" word mentioned although I have seen nothing written down. At the end of the day, there is no money and seemingly no serious willingness to preserve it. My suspicion is that Station would prefer it to fall down so that money can then be allocated and the space on the waterfront re-used. I must admit, however, that I would prefer any heritage buildings money to stop rain water leaking through the roof into the Waddington Heritage Centre (contained in the old WW2 NAAFI - "the Ravens Club"). This would allow some nice original aircraft paintings to be displayed!
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Old 30th May 2013, 08:03   #14 (permalink)
 
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I do know that Towers should be on the south side of the airfield, so that the ATC'ers are not looking into sun (we wish!)
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Old 30th May 2013, 09:18   #15 (permalink)
 
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Anyone told Benson? (Abingdon, &c.)
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Old 30th May 2013, 09:32   #16 (permalink)
 
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That's easily sorted -just fly the circuits to the North and give the controllers a stiff neck.
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Old 30th May 2013, 09:41   #17 (permalink)
 
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Anyone told Benson? (Abingdon, &c.)
Wallop, Dishforth, Gutersloh, Detmold, Leconfield...
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Old 30th May 2013, 12:11   #18 (permalink)
 
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and Leuchars......

Like most things in life, someone has written a book on the subject, in this case:



Out of print, although it does go for silly money on second hand sites (Must keep my copy pristine!) it has a chapter on the origins of the Watch Office/Control Tower up until the early post WW2 period
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Old 30th May 2013, 15:20   #19 (permalink)
 
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I seem to recall the towers at Chelveston and Elvington were VCRs on top of a wooden lattice tower which were much higher than the 'standard' RAF VCR. I think it may have been due to the 10,000ft runways at both airfields.
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Old 30th May 2013, 15:32   #20 (permalink)
 
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Elvington's may well have been built to SAC standards when the place was remodelled for the USAF.

I know it's wikipedia, and normal caveats apply;

Quote:
United States Air Force use

The United States Air Force built a new 3,094 m (10,151 ft) runway, which was the longest in the north of England, and a huge 19.8 hectares (49 acres) rectangular hardstanding apron as well as a new control tower to turn Elvington into a "Basic Operation Platform" which would have operated as a Strategic Air Command (SAC) dispersal airfield.
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